A Caribbean Christmas
By Laurie Reich
Ever wonder what it is like to spend Christmas in the Caribbean? Here are some traditions that locals enjoy around the holidays!
Snow in the Cayman Islands
If you woke up in Grand Cayman and saw front yards covered in a blanket of white, you
wouldn’t be dreaming. Starting in October, buckets of white sand are brought to homes
where it is left in a pile until December 24. On Christmas Eve day, the piles are raked
into even blankets of white. No one is supposed to step on them until Christmas
Pre-dawn Parties in St. Vincent
Those living in St. Vincent celebrate Christmas very early. Starting 9 days before
Christmas, locals wake up each day at 5am and participate in activities such as
costumed parades, concerts, dances, bikes rides, and ocean swims. Then at 7am,
everyone heads off to work, waiting to participate in more activities the next morning.
This goes on through Christmas Eve, when the biggest celebration occurs with a steel
band “jump up” party.
Christmas with a Bang in the Dominican Republic
In the Dominican Republic the Christmas season kicks off in October, launching three
months of parties, special meals and traditions such as Double Sueldo—an extra
month’s pay to help fund the holidays. The biggest party of the season, Noche Buena,
takes place on Christmas Eve, and in the weeks leading up to this gathering of friends
and family, the skies come alive in impromptu barrages of fireworks. Known as fuegos
artificiales, this tradition borders on a national obsession, and everyone gets in on the
Next Day Giving in Barbados
The December 26 observance of Boxing Day began in England when employers and
masters would reward their servants and employees with a seasonal gift box. The
tradition continues on Caribbean islands with strong British heritages such as Barbados,
where this post-Christmas holiday provides a chance to make the neighborhood rounds
and drop off gifts to friends and relatives, then enjoy a picnic or beach outing.
Taking It to the Streets in the Bahamas
In the early hours of December 26th, thousands of elaborately costumed dancers
parade on the streets of downtown Nassau. The night comes alive with the rhythms of
goatskin drums, cowbells, whistles and horns. Crowds of onlookers line sidewalks and
the balconies of nearby buildings. The procession culminates with a pass by the judge’s
stands for a chance with cash prizes and awards. Smaller versions of Junkanoo are
staged on other islands, and the entire spectacle repeats on January 1.
Festival of Lights in St. Lucia
In St. Lucia, they honor the patron saint of lights, St. Lucy, for whom the island is
named. They have a Festival of Lights where locals participate in a lantern making
competition. They decorate the towns and villages with tons of glorious lights.